Friday, December 23, 2005

If only we could grow soybeans in alkili flats

For a while now, Steve Urquhart has been talking about how federally-owned land in Utah would solve all of our fiscal problems if only those greedy feds would give us "our" land back. Putting the 75% the state that is federally-owned land into private ownership would, as the logic goes, increase total property tax revenue. Unfortunately, more land on the assessor's rolls does not equal more property tax revenue.

Iowa is the state with the most amount of privately-owned land. As such, it pulls in some $3.3 billion in property tax revenue, divying it up to some $1,118.51 per corn-fed, salt-of-the-earth Iowan. Compared to Utah's $751.91 per person, it would seem that more privately-owned land does bring in more dough. However, Nevada, the state with the most federally-owned land in the lower 48, brings in somewhere near $930.88 per person. Idaho, similarly situated, does $889.62. With the vast majority of private property in Nevada being in Clark County (Las Vegas), it seems that tax performance in the West largely relies on assessments in urban areas. Furthermore, Iowa's tax receipts are what they are because it is a flat, wet, and arable state that has more (traditionally) economically productive land.

The way we make land perform in the west is getting the most value out of the scraps of habitable land that we do have. There are a myriad of ways to do this, but the most effective way is to increase density. Mr. Urquhart has identified the lack of land in places like Washington County as a need to "homestead" the federally-owned red dirt around St. George. What is more striking to me, however, is the under-performing real property in the historic heart of St. George. Density increases in Downtown SG would increase property values while hopefully giving it somewhat of a pulse. Unfortunately, with the St. George beltway proposal, it looks like we're on our way to covering the red rocks with pre-fab, ranch-style dwell-pods. And, as an added bonus, it looks like we might be using the same strategy with Legacy (but gee, federal judge, we spent all our money on the freeway already!) to compel the feds into letting us chip away at BLM land. Whatever the case, we've got to be smarter about land development and stop relying on the proven unsustainability of mindless land consumption.

Below is a graphic of federally-owned land in Alaska and the lower 48. It's kind of pretty, dont you think?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bad spending = bad air

Out West we like to think that our big open spaces insulate us from the need for effective environmental protections. To some extent, that's true in a lot of places, as the 500 miles of desert and mountains between major Western cities allows us to dump our crud into the environment without alot of immediate consequences.

Unfortunately, that's not the case along the Wasatch Front. Our water ends up in a dead sea that, when embedded in an exposed lakebed, conjures up dust clouds full of mercury and other toxic shit that finds its way into our modest rivers and streams. What we put into our air is often shoved in our faces and down our lungs as the mountains around us hold our air in the valley and, as they are older and wiser than us, seemingly seek to make us immediately realize the consequences of our collectively crapping into the air.

What a coinkydink, then, in the same day the Tribune publishes one article about a medium-city's failure to comply with EPA air standards, another one shows up about Senate leadership poised to build more roads. It appears that the gentlemen in the Senate are not listening to what the mountains are telling us. More roads equals more particulates.

For those that think that clean air is just a bone-headed hippie rallying cry, chew on this: roads are more expensive and less efficient than transit. So Lyle Hillyard has a constituent that wants "freeway to drive on." Does he really feel that this "family state" should spend its money on a damn freeway - which just generates its own traffic anyway due to its inducement of land development - rather than making sure that its children/elders/health-deficient can go outdoors on certain days?

Roads are expensive and they are bad for your health. So why is a cash-strapped state government, with a modest growth rate, pedal-to-the-metaling on their construction?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Godless judge sticks finger in Chris Buttars' eye

Judge John E. Jones of the Federal Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has ruled that "intelligent design" is unconstitutional. Not surprising, but a stunning blow to the "my god or the highway" crowd nonetheless.

More interesting, however, is this quote from the opinion: "The citizens of the Dover [Pennsylvania] area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID [Intelligent Design] Policy," Jones wrote."

Assuming for a moment that this judge is the not a liberal-activist-god-and-freedom-hating heathen that he is, his quote, by extension, would mean that the citizens of UT Senate District 10 are currently being "poorly served." Thank God, however, that he is a liberal-activist-god-and-freedom-hating judge, because if he weren't, then we would have to accept that Chris Buttar's constituents are "poorly served."

Friday, December 16, 2005

Wow, Chris Buttars is really stupid

I've always regarded Buttars' adventures as a quirky diversions into the 13th Century ("divine" design, anyone?) that are, by the magnitude of their sheer stupidity, relatively harmless. But waging war on innocent teenagers is really a sign that someone has fallen of their rocker - and for real this time.

If you've ever heard Buttars speak, you know that he is incapable of avoiding grammatical errors and couldn't enunciate to save his life. Usually, this isn't a sign of someone's true intelligence, but with Buttars, he talks like a hick because he is stupid.

If you've ever seen Buttars in a debate, you know that ignorance, for him, is something to be proud of. A couple of years ago, on Rod Decker's show, there was a debate between Buttars and Robert Lane, President of Humanists of Utah, on whether our Founding Fathers intended the US to be a Christian nation. Lane brought up the Treaty of Tripoli, which unequivocally states that the "the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." Buttars' reply? "Well, I never heard 'a that!" To most people, not being aware of a crucial piece of evidence in a debate would be death knell. For Buttars, however, his not hearing "a' that" provided the needed insularity to hide himself from his breathtaking stupidity.

Buttars is the type of guy that plagues Utah's ascension into normalcy. He is ignorant, intolerant, self-righteous, insular, and unaware of how backwards he is. Most people would use these same adjectives to describe Utah. We know that that perception is, for the most part, untrue. But as long as we have Buttars around, we'll always be taking 2 steps back.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Shit. So that's what seniority does.

Well, I hope Pete can weather this.

Really, with Orrin, in whatever means necessary, managed to kill the nuke dump. Well, it's comin' on election time and well, this is hard to compete with.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Quirky backwater? Where do they get that idea?

When you read this, remember that it's not The Onion.

More on this later.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Kos Hearts Ashdown

Uh oh. Once a candidate is featured on Daily Kos, they run the risk of receiving substantial amounts of campaign contributions from progressive organizations all over the country. This could be bad news for Orrin, for once he's outspent, he he has few things to rely on, like his moral outrage. With that being recently susceptible to rank hypocrisy, he could be in a spot of trouble. As for the seniority thing, Utahns are increasingly wondering just what this seniority is being used to promote.

Utah's top-red status is always pulled out as a reason as to why Ashdown could never succeed, but as Kos has demonstrated, the perceived redness of voters does not always guarantee a waltz to victory for Republican candidates.

Summit County: Thanks for your invaluable contribution to the community, Blair, now get the hell out.

Let's face it, Park City and Summit County would just be a glorified resort and a collection of hick towns if it weren't for KPCW. However, Summit County Commissioner and local grouch Ken Woolstenhulme thinks that Blair Fuelner should happily contribute to the community without any assistance. Let's hope that Ken sets an example and forgoes his salary for his once-a-week job, which, interestingly enough, is about equal to what KPCW is set to receive under the RAP proposal.

To the citizens of Summit County, I put this to you: for $45k, would you rather have KPCW or Ken Woolstenhulme?